Revisiting The West Wing

Sometimes spending some time with your spouse watching TV is right up there with comfort food, the challenge is often finding something that you’ll both find interesting and relaxing. We watched West Wing when it was originally aired, and somewhere along the line acquired the entire set of DVD’s which sat on the shelf unused until earlier this year when we just couldn’t anything interesting on the 100 or so channels we get on local cable. This post is just about watching TV, not politics.

Watching it again over many months, with no commercials and already knowing the characters and the main story line was interesting. Lots of little things were noticed for the first time, or maybe noticed before and weren’t as interesting then. I was struck by the camera work as always, the long walking and talking shots that I suspect aren’t easy to do well. But more, it was interesting to watch it evolve. Interesting to to see the occasional uneven writing, the playing for ratings during sweeps and the end of season cliff hanger, things that happen in all TV shows, but somehow didn’t detract enough to lose the focus – the characters.

As someone that writes here, I wonder at the challenges of trying to do that kind of writing, consistently. It looks like a lot of fun, until you think about being graded each week by a few million viewers!

There are some interesting characters in the story, of which perhaps my favorite is Leo because he’s the father/mentor figure, so much so that you wonder how much was acting and how much was John Spencer the man. In particular the story line where he explains what it’s like to be alcoholic is amazing, and worth watching.

There’s also some stuff in the show about politics and leadership and collaboration that is worth watching for it’s educational value. Now I know that West Wing is an interpretation of the real world at best, and whether it’s 50% accurate or 95%, who knows? But I see scenes and decision points illustrated that match my own experiences, enough that I watch the interpretation and I agree? Was that good leadership? How could it be done better?

It’s also interesting to wonder, should I just stop thinking and just enjoy, do I need to seek lessons even when watching TV? I don’t know the answer to that. I’m not going to take much of anything on TV for granted without verifying, so it seems like it makes sense to think on things while it’s happening, both to learn and to participate in the entertainment.

Whether you watch WW or something else, you might try grabbing a few seasons of something and watching it. For me it’s much like reading a favorite book again, the new small discoveries that add to the delight, and sometimes the feeling of growth and change as you see things differently now than you did the time before.